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How China Changed Its Language From Archaic Confucian Bureaucracy to the Lingua Franca of Globalization

March 21, 2022
00:00 33:59
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After a meteoric rise, China today is one of the world’s most powerful nations. Just a century ago, it was a crumbling empire with literacy reserved for the elite few, as the world underwent a massive technological transformation that threatened to leave them behind.

Today’s guest is Prof. Jing Tsu, author of “Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution that Made China Modern.” She argues that China’s most daunting challenge was a linguistic one: the century-long fight to make the Chinese language—with its many dialects and complex character-based script—accessible to the modern world of global trade and digital technology.

We discuss the connection between language and power, challenges China faced to ensure their language remained dominant/widespread, the innovators who adapted the Chinese language to a world defined by the West and its alphabet, AND it was so important for China to preserve its ancient character set, even though it was seen as such a hindrance to their technological development.

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to
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